Working quietly, not interested in fame or notoriety, is the volunteer service organization, Hope Scholarship Program, sponsored by Jubilee Mennonite Church in Meridian. There is no doubt the service program is needed – an organization uplifting high school students by mentorship, scholarship, and community service. See their web site: http://cohmeridian.org
For many years, Community of Hope (COH), reached out to their neighborhood, with a tutoring program geared toward elementary students. It was in 2011, after much prayer and discussion, COH created a service program for teens, especially junior and senior high school students. Hope Scholarship Program will soon begin the fourth year of a uniquely designed organization that offers hope and touches lives.
The story of Community of Hope/Hope Scholarship Program encompasses a love of community, fueled by a desire to reach students, who otherwise might not have the opportunities that are offered through the giving hearts of COH.
Some of these opportunities include: (1) Volunteering with community organizations -- 100 hours. (2) Guidance for college entrance requirements and financial planning. (3) Career Day, when various professionals share testimonials pertaining to their chosen career pathways. (4) College essay prep, creative writing, journaling and time management workshops. (5) Value of teamwork. (6) Proper dress and protocol for job/college interviews.
In addition, the scholarship program brings together students and professionals who might not have met otherwise. The results of this meeting have been twofold: (1) Students are encouraged and complimented leaders from the Meridian community care about them. (2) Professionals can actually meet the leaders of tomorrow.
From the beginning in 2011, I have been blessed and honored to participate with this awesome effort. I meet good-hearted-people and outstanding students each year. I was there to teach, but came away the student. I learn so many valuable life lessons and witness the very best in people – those who reach out to these students for naught in return, other than the conviction to invest in the youth and future leaders of Meridian. I am humbled to be included in a work that is more than valuable, but vital for the betterment of our community.
I remember in May, 2011, when I met with the first scholarship class -- yes, we were all nervous, but quickly the conversation flowed and I witnessed young people who had definite plans and purposes. As the students began to trust me, we discussed their college and career goals. A few of the students shared with me their doubts and fears as well as daily challenges that seemed to be stumbling blocks.
As the discussion rounded the table, comments were added by the other students, and we were well on our way toward making a breakthrough. I’m happy to report the camaraderie continued throughout the year as well as with each class since that time.
Some of the volunteer opportunities include: Wesley House, Pine Lake Camp, Mustard Seed, Love’s Kitchen, Meridian Main Street, Meridian Museum of Art, Aldersgate Retirement Community, Rose Hill Historic Cemetery Costumed Tour, Jubilee Mennonite Church, and several others.
As I ponder the successful Hope Scholarship Program strategy, I am convinced the secret is the human touch. We provide the students with an additional voice of encouragement, a phone number to call for help or counsel, we open doors throughout the community, which includes local leadership as well as management personnel who guides the volunteer organizations, we offer meet and greet occasions for the students, and opportunities to “take a peek” into career fields, which they might have never considered.
Finally, I would like to end with a paraphrased testimonial recently shared by a scholarship student, who volunteered in a nursing home. She said, with joy upon her face, “I love working in the nursing home. I volunteer extra hours as often as I can. I love walking through the door and greeting the residents. They smile and laugh when I am with them, as do I. This experience has led me to plan a career in a nursing home, either in the medical field or social work. It’s funny – before the scholarship program, I would have never thought of working there.”
I am so happy my life’s pathway led me to the Hope Scholarship Program.
Anne McKee is a writer and storyteller. See her website: www.annemckee.net